I can pretend that I did not know when to submit my university application. I finished the application when it was too late to reach by post. So, my mother dropped everything and drove some distance to deliver it herself. She never complained. A few days later, I was in the car with my father. Whilst remaining focussed on the road ahead, he said, when we don’t do what we should at the right time, it puts extraordinary pressure on others to compensate. He didn’t dwell on it. He only said it once and he left it at that. The fact that you are reading this 35 years later must mean something about that experience.
Our experiences affect how we behave. Please, let us frame these experiences as positive and negative. So how do we process our experiences? One way is to seek out heroes. When our heroes achieve something great, they brush it off. They may say “Oh, it was nothing really…” Curiously, those same heroes rarely talk about their own mistakes. Our heroes seem to control all those feelings with such reserve. Yet when we experience something positive or negative, we behave as if we’ve just fallen out of a tree. And once we have dusted off the proverbial leaves, we remain uncertain whether there is some hidden penalty to expressing how we honestly feel about an experience.
I invite you to explore a negative experience within a place you feel safe. Maybe your favourite restaurant. Give the negative experience a moment to glance down the menu as you sit comfortably. Let go of your fears. There is no judgement, no measurement, no label here. The beauty of being human is to make mistakes. And being human gives us the free will to choose what we do with that experience. So, make the choice to calmly understand what the negative experience is saying. Take a moment to push aside our natural defences, which reassuringly whisper false excuses. There is no need to save face here. Genuinely, open our arms to embrace a negative experience to help us grow. Feeling the hurt from delaying and then unfairly relying on others to save the day, deeply impacted on my personal and professional life. And I am incredibly grateful for it.
But I had to feel the pain. Though, not too little, or too much pain. We ignore pain dulled through denial. And we do not know where to pinpoint pain when someone is screaming at us. I am certainly guilty of needing two scoops of a negative experience before I properly reflect and learn my lesson. Whilst we talk of negative experiences, the same is true of positive experiences. We grow from reflecting upon positive experiences, no matter how bashful this makes us feel.
One of the skills of a sports coach is to objectively reflect after each game. You see how sports coaches do not over-congratulate a single player in a single game. At the same time, he or she does not allow a team to sink too deeply after a defeat. Either way, they ensure that the lessons are not lost. There is tremendous value in having a great coach. Someone keeping a healthy balance of how we reflect upon our experiences. And once the lessons are learnt, let go of any baggage associated with the experience, for that is not something to carry with us. If you do not have a coach, perhaps become your own coach. Perhaps give yourself the space to reflect as you remain focussed on the road ahead.
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